Mother’s Day and all the images you see in this review are owned by Open Road Films
Directed by Garry Marshall
Seriously. It’s not funny anymore Garry Marshall. Whoever’s paying you to do this or whoever has your family hostage NEEDS to be stopped. For the third time in a damn row, Garry Marshall is trying to rip off Love Actually by taking the formula and centering on other holidays that seem to be chosen at random. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next movie is about Arbor Day and Julia Roberts plays a tree in it! So is this one just as bad as the rest? Yes. Yes it is. No point in giving you false hope. Let’s just get this one over with…
The movie is separated into four stories. Jennifer Aniston has to deal with the fact that her ex-husband has remarried a much younger woman and they are both dazzeling the kids with fun trips, junk food, and rock concerts while she’s at her house doing everything else for them. Jason Sudeikis is a widower whose wife passed away about a year ago and he’s still dealing with the grief while trying to raise his two daughters. Britt Robertson is a woman who’s raising her infant daughter with her boyfriend, but she also has her own demons to work out as she has never met her birth mother who is an HSN host played by Julia Roberts. And finally, KKate Hudson and Sarah Chalke play sisters who have married people their parents would not approve of (an indian man played by Aasif Mandvi for the former and another woman played by Cameron Esposito for the latter) and they are no longer able to hide this fact from them since they have made a surprise visit. Each of these stories are loosely connected by the fact that some of the characters know each other as either friends or in a professional sense, and we follow our heroes as they learn to get over their problems, make up for mistakes they’ve made, and become better people in the process. Oh and there’s a holiday in here… I guess.
Did this movie ever have a chance of being good? Of course not. Garry Marshall has squandered the last twenty five years of his career making pablum for the masses and it’s only gotten worse once he started making movies based on lame holidays. I will give him all the credit in the world for Pretty Woman (outdated but still enjoyable), but he continues to dive further and further into utter incompetence and is nothing more than a well-known hack at this point. There’s NOTHING here for anyone to enjoy. MAYBE enough for people to go “meh” or “it’s ok I guess” and maybe that will be enough to get butts in seats. For someone who actually LIKES seeing movies though, this was intolerable; like paying to see an infomercial or seeing a Pure Flix film in the theaters.
Pablum really is the right word here as everything is obnoxiously competent and inoffensive to white people (we’ll get to THAT soon enough). It’s shot with zero creativity or inspiration, yet it manages to keep a consistent look and feel and it avoids any awkward moments or poorly staged scenes. The acting is exactly as good as it needs to be for mediocre tripe like this with Héctor Elizondo and John Lovitz being the highlight in the brief appearances they have here. Julie Roberts does put a bit more into this than the rest of the main cast, but she also has the most interesting role here and has the most emotional depths to plumb. If they had focused on her story and her kid’s story, you might have been able to stretch it out into an okay dramedy. You’d obviously have to put it in the hands of someone other than Garry Marshall of course (the storyline is rife with clichés and unfunny shtick) but there’s potential there.
I will also say that, while there’s no way this could have been retrofitted into a GOOD movie, the storyline with Kate Hudson and Sarah Chalke had an okay idea and characters I would like to have seen in a better movie. It’s the segment that tries to sell this movie as progressive in some way by having gay and interracial couples represented, but it still has to play it safe so as not to offend the fragile sensibilities of middle of the road white people. The parents may be racist and homophobic, but they’re also supposed to be endearing. Hell, the go so far as to have Aasif Mandvi’s mother show up just to say it’s okay for the old white people to be racist while simultaneously being the most stereotypical looking Indian woman you could imagine; so much so that for a second there I thought it was a white woman in brown face (she’s not as she’s played by Anoush NeVart). Even if she wasn’t such an obvious offensive stereotype, it would still be offensive that these writers (none of whom appear to be of Indian descent) felt that they could just write in a random person of color to excuse the dumbass comments by the white people and make it okay for the people in the audience to laugh at their awful jokes. It just goes to show the completely unbalanced nature of Hollywood that a great actor like Margo Martindale is forced to take roles like this and that actors like Annoush NeVart (and even Assif Mandvi to an extent) are just brought on to add a bit of color and to defend the white people.
That’s not even the worst of it though! There’s something in here that’s actually MORE racist than that! In a movie about Mother’s, none of our main characters are mothers of color, but they DO manage to have a black woman in here played by Loni Love who’s fat, sassy, and jive talking. Wonderful.
Speaking of Loni Love, we haven’t even gotten to Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis yet (the latter of whom she plays a somewhat prominent role in). Out of the four subplots that are in this, theirs are the “primary” ones as they have the biggest names and the largest roles. Sudeiki’s story isn’t as annoying as Aniston’s but it’s definitely more boring. It’s completely bland and Jason Sudeikis doesn’t help considering he’s half asleep through the damn thing. Maybe the character has reached a plateau with his grief and is simply in a state of numbness by this point, but that doesn’t make his performance any less BORING. It’s clear that they needed to inject levity into his section which is why he has this odd harem of middle aged ladies, of which Loni Love is one of them, that are constantly talking shit to him and trying to get him hooked up with an number of single mom’s. The kids are fine in their roles (they ACTUALLY show emotion on occasion) but like the ladies, they’re just window dressing for Sudeikis’s non-existent story and are only around for his character to have someone to talk to.
Aniston’s part at least has better acting in it with Timothy Olyphant and Shay Mitchell being the fun parents (there’s actual range to their roles) but it feels incredibly manipulative and just a touch propagandistic. I can’t claim to know what it’s like to have your ex-husband remarry, but it’s so exaggerated her as to be meaningless. If this WAS a movie trying to convey something by being over the top then that’s one thing, but nothing in here even hints at this being an exaggerated or unrealistic universe. Okay fine, everyone in here has fucking MANSIONS to live in (especially Timothy Olyphant) but that’s true of a lot of movies. The way Timothy Olyphant and Shay Mitchell are constantly (and unintentionally by the way) one upping Jennifer Aniston becomes ludicrous and cringe worthy; especially when you realize all the movie’s energy is on victimizing Jennifer Aniston instead of building her up as a character. She’s supposedly a really great interior designer (a fact we don’t find out for damn near forty minutes) but even after that fact is introduced we never see her at her craft or gain an appreciation for what she does. If they had just given me a reason to care for her other than just the awkward situation she finds herself in, I might have been able to root for her more. As it stands, she’s pretty much nothing more than a symbol that I guess will mean something to some people (same way as this movie will be enjoyed by a whole lot of people) but doesn’t add anything to the film itself. What’s even more awkward than sitting through Jennifer Aniston acting flustered and Jason Sudeikis acting… tired I guess, is whenever they try to hint that these two are going to get together. They meet maybe a total of three times in the movie, and yet not once do you think they should be together. Aniston is game and tries to put on the charm, but Sudeikis is just not that into it; either from the way he acts in those scenes or even the dialogue that is written for him. Not once does he see this woman as anything but a bothersome pest, yet the movie by the end makes it clear that they’re gonna hook up at some point. Like everything else in the movie, it just feels like a checkbox on the crappy rom-com checklist that has to be done because I guess the target audience wants that, even if it’s completely forced and uncomfortable to watch.
There’s a rule in Hollywood that you don’t hire absurdly attractive women for movies aimed at a female audience so that the women watching can better identify with the protagonist. While there’s so much to unpack there about making assumptions on what women want, what constitutes as TOO attractive for a movie aimed at women, and whether or not that’s confirmation bias (who’s got the data to back that up?) it does seem to be a thing which is why Scarlett Johansson doesn’t usually appear in those kind of movies unless the conventions of rom-coms are the whole point (Don Jon). The reason I bring that up is that I feel this movie is one of the more cynical interpretations of not only that rule, but just what Hollywood hacks think women want in their movies. Everything in here feels deliberate from the unimpressive cinematography to the unbearably saccharin story. This is Garry Marshall making a movie with no stated objective more than to make the blandest movie that will appeal to the most number of people with low expectations. It will probably work as there’s not a lot of competition right now, but we don’t give Michael Bay a free pass when he does it and I’m sure as hell not giving it to Garry Marshall. Screw this movie, do not see it, and for God’s sake DO NOT TAKE YOUR MOTHER TO IT. If THIS is the best idea you could think of for a Mother’s Day gift, then… well I guess this movie did its fucking job.
If you like this review and plan on buying the movie, then use the Amazon link below! I’ll get a percentage of the order it helps keep things going for me here at The Reviewers Unite! In fact, you don’t even need to buy the item listed! Just use the link, shop normally, and when you check out it will still give us that sweet, sweet, percentage! You can even bookmark the link and use it every time you shop! HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?